Kevin Durant wins 2012 All-Star MVP, West beats East 152-149

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The 2012 NBA All-Star game started off as a blowout, but ended up being competitive to the final possession. Kevin Durant and LeBron James tied for the game-high in scoring with 36 points each, but Durant got the MVP nod as his West squad held on to win in exciting fashion, 152-149.

Durant started off hot with 13 first-quarter points, with his Thunder head coach Scott Brooks playing him the entire period as he does in his regular rotation in games that count. He had 21 by halftime and 34 after three, and finished 14-of-25 from the field with seven rebounds and three assists.

“It’s just exciting to be named to All-Star, but to step it up to another level and become MVP, it’s only something that as a kid you dream about,” Durant said afterward.

Durant played a game-high 17 minutes, which he said he knew was coming, as he and his coach had been discussing it for the past couple of weeks. He knew early on he had a shot at the trophy.

“After the first quarter,” Durant said, when asked when he thought the MVP might be within reach. “You know, I had a rhythm going. Guys were feeding me. I hit a few shots, and I was being aggressive. We had a good lead, as well. I had an idea that I can get the award, but with so many great players on the floor, you never know what can happen. But I’m glad I’m taking it home.”

Durant was deserving of the MVP, but he was quiet in the fourth quarter with just two points on two shots. Maybe that’s why the East was able to close the gap.

The West led by 19 points at halftime, and set an All-Star game record for most points in the process. Things changed in the third quarter, and Dwyane Wade let it be known that the East was going to compete. He took an unusually hard foul on Kobe Bryant, smacking Bryant in the nose and actually drawing blood — something which may have been a first in the mid-season exhibition.

“I obviously didn’t try to draw no blood, but I took a foul,” Wade said afterward. “Kobe fouled me two times in a row, so he’s still got one up on me. But I’m glad that everything was cool and we got back to being competitive and having fun.”

Most of the rest of the game from that point was fun only for the East, and especially Wade’s Miami Heat teammate, LeBron James. While Wade finished with a rare All-Star game triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, James got hot from three-point distance, knocking down five out of six from downtown in the second half to bring the East roaring all the way back to within two points with 16.3 seconds remaining.

Deron Williams had a shot to win it, popping out to the three-point line for a clean look that just didn’t fall. The East had one more chance after Williams secured his own rebound, but James turned it over, trying to find a teammate in the paint while Kobe Bryant was defending. He said afterward that Bryant gave him a hard time for not stepping up to take that final shot.

“Yeah, he was telling me to shoot it,” James said. “I seen my teammate open for a split second, I told him I seen him open the first time and I didn’t release the ball. When I tried to throw it late, that’s what usually happens and it results in a turnover. Definitely wish I could have that one back.”

Bryant started off the game by making his first four shots, and finished by doing what he does: forcing tough, contested fadeaway jump shots with defenders in his face and the game on the line. Bryant finished second to Durant on his team in scoring with 27 points, and with a breakaway two-handed slam dunk in the third, passed Michael Jordan in the record books to become the All-Star game’s all-time leading scorer.

The game featured its fair share of sensational plays from just about everyone who was interested — Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and several others. Noticeably absent from the highlight reel was Orlando’s Dwight Howard, who appeared disinterested and was going at it in a lower gear than everyone else for most of the night. (Need proof? Look no further than his zero-of-four shooting … from three-point land.)

Overall, the game delivered. The exciting plays were there, as were the intensity and competition the players displayed in taking the outcome down to the night’s final possession.

And there was Kevin Durant, taking home his first All-Star game MVP.

“I keep saying it, but I’m excited I got it, and I’m glad I get to celebrate this with my family and my teammates and everyone in Oklahoma City,” he said. “We’ll see if I get another one down the line.”

Brad Stevens says Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward should be fully cleared by Aug. 1

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Everyone watching the Boston Celtics in the playoffs kept thinking the same thing: Add Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into this lineup next summer and — bang — instant contender.

That leads to the question: Just where are Irving and Hayward on their recovery tracks? Glad you asked.

That’s a good sign for the Celtics. And for fans of good basketball.

One word of caution: Progression when adding stars into a system is not necessarily linear. Or, to put it more plainly, throwing superstars who need the ball in their hands into the mix comes with its own set of adjustments and challenges, things do not always go smoothly or as planned. There could be some fits and starts as the Celtics figure things out next season. (And that’s not even getting into the Kawhi Leonard rumors, which are legitimate but also a long way from reality as of today.)

If you were going to trust one coach to figure it out and get guys to buy in, Brad Stevens would be your guy. The Celtics are rightfully going to enter next season as the bar to clear in the East (free agency depending). Just don’t expect things to go smoothly from day one, because that’s just not how basketball or life work.

Michael Porter Jr. says his injury situation “got exaggerated a lot”

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If healthy, Michael Porter Jr. might be as talented as anyone in this draft. He’s a 6’11” wing or small ball four who can shoot from the NBA three-point line and has the athleticism to get up and down the floor then finish with authority.

But health is a concern. There was the back injury which forced a microdiscectomy surgery that forced Porter to miss all but three games last season. Back injuries in big men are tricky things and can linger. Then last week there was an off-again-on-again workout and medical evaluation with the pause due to a hip issue. Was that soreness tied to the back issue?

In an interview on ESPN radio, Porter played down the injury concerns.

Former Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., who had issues with his hip and back, said Monday that he’s “feeling great” and wouldn’t dismiss the idea of working out for teams this week ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft.

“It’s a possibility,” Porter said on The Will Cain Show on ESPN Radio. “I feel good. … I got evaluated. I let the doctors come in and do all their tests on me. I’m feeling good. I think the teams are comfortable, but I might get a couple workouts in.”

As for last week’s hip issue.

“It was just a little sore, so I told [my agent] my hip was kind of sore and he just wanted to shut it down for a couple of days,” Porter said. “And then people took that and kind of ran with it, saying, you know, my hip was injured, I couldn’t get out of bed. … None of that was really true. I was just sore and I wanted to take a couple of days off. So that’s all that was.”

Porter is the mystery man in this draft — and those guys always seem to rise and have someone fall in love with them. It’s hard to imagine Porter going lower than eighth, but he has been linked to teams as high as the Kings at No. 2.

Porter is the kind of player that some team lower in the draft may fall in love with and be willing to trade up to the top five to snag him. The health is the question. An NBA front office member who has seen Porter’s medical reports described them to NBC Sports as “fine.”

There are also concerns about Porter’s grit and toughness. He has the reputation of having been insulated and having been a bit of a diva, what happens when he gets to an NBA team where he is not the first (and, at first at least, maybe not the second) option. What happens when he has to play more of a role and have it not be about him and his touches? Teams are asking about that.

Despite the concerns, there will be a team taking him in the first half of the lottery. It could be a home run. Or… that’s what makes the draft interesting.

Report: As expected, Jamal Crawford declines $4.5 million player option with Minnesota

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Jamal Crawford wants a bigger payday, and after a solid season scoring 10.3 points per game for Minnesota last season, he might get it despite a tight market. That’s why what happened on Monday was expected.

Crawford opted out of the final year of his contract with the Timberwolves, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford has declined his $4.5 million player option for next season and will become a free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Crawford, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year, will become one of the top reserve scorers on the open market after facing Monday’s deadline to decide on his option.

The concern for teams is that Crawford is 38 and already showing some decline in his skills and game. Crawford can still be productive, but teams will be leery of offering more than two years guaranteed on his contract. And for a guy who comes off the bench — even a three-time Sixth Man of the Year — teams are not going to spend big.

Crawford may also just be looking for a new team chemistry and role, something at this stage in his career he should be able to get.

Enes Kanter’s father sentenced to 15 years in jail in ongoing political dispute

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The dictatorial Turkish government has issued an arrest warrant for Knicks big man Enes Kanter because he is an outspoken opponent of Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter is not foolish enough to go home to be arrested (and likely tortured), he may never see his homeland again.

Kanter’s family had to disavow their son and his beliefs. That apparently was not enough. Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Turkey for “membership in a terror group,” the country’s official news agency reported Monday.

Enes Kanter believes to be a politically motivated attempt to go at him. Kanter released this statement.

The Turkish government’s shots at Kanter are not new. Last summer the Turkish government revoked Kanter’s passport while he was abroad, forcing American diplomats (with some help from the NBA) to step in and prevent him from being sent back to his native country and arrested.

All of this is because Kanter is a follower of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkish president Erdogan — who is essentially a dictator now, and runs a country where human rights abuses are rampant — blames Gulen for masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, and used that as an excuse for a crackdown and consolidation of power.

Using or dividing family members to try to gain political advantage or make a political statement is abhorrent, anywhere it happens. Unfortunately, Kanter is caught in the middle of it and there is little he can do.